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Under Construction
At a recent lunch in Oakland

December 31st, 2004

Being Naive
My company is matching employee donations to the Red Cross dollar for dollar for South Asia disaster relief, so that's one way for someone like me to help. I also see the link on Good for

One morning last week I walked downstairs to the small thirteen car garage in my building and found the four members of the young Chinese family who'd recently moved into the building sitting in the foyer looking distracted. Who are you, they seemed to ask, descending the stairs with two empty sake bottles under your arm and a camera over your shoulder? The apartment manager was standing in the middle of the garage talking with another tenant. Two people from the second floor were over to the side looking through their locker.

I learned the garage had been broken into that night by robbers who removed bolts holding together the metal gate from the outside and then ransacked two cars, some of the lockers and stole three others. My Element hadn't been touched. Because I had a little red blinking LED on the dashboard? The late model Volvo next to my car with its own little blinking LED was untouched as well. They'd stolen two bicycles, but neither of the motorcycles. A little early morning reality check, here in Oakland.

The next evening the same people hit the building next door. They only stole two cars, so maybe one of them was laid up at home with a sore throat or something. It's been going around. My apartment manager said the police got some good prints off tools the robbers had left behind. Idiots? Leaving tools and fingerprints? Probably. Nice of them not to touch my car. Not so nice to steal my neighbors'.

They'd welded plates in front of the exposed bolts on the gate by the time I got home that evening. I suspect it still wouldn't be all that difficult to figure a way around them, but it looks impressive: the welded metal, the fresh coat of paint.

The Chinese family, the mother and father in their late twenties, early thirties; the daughters under ten, none of them yet having learned to speak English very well: was their car, a van, used in making their living? One might have hoped for a less gritty introduction to Oakland. The car was discovered two days later and now sits in its stall with a new scrape on the front bumper.

My friend MSR once told me that when she was a little girl and came with her family to San Francisco from Hong Kong, all of them jammed into a small apartment near Chinatown, they came home one evening soon after their arrival and found everything they owned stolen. No money to speak of and now no clothes. Maybe stealing immigrants blind is a Bay Area tradition.

I take it you flunked history?

You think I'm naive.

No. I think you're stupid

Happy New Year.

Happy New Year.

Here in Oakland.

The photograph was taken At a recent lunch in Oakland with a Nikon D2h mounted with a 17-55mm f2.8 Nikkor lens at ISO 1250.